Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Expert: Sultan has no power to ask more names

1:22PM Aug 27, 2014

Without mincing words, constitutional expert Abdul Aziz Bari claimed that the Selangor sultan had no power to request for more names with regard to the menteri besar post.

He also said the request was unconstitutional since there is a candidate, PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, with clear majority support.

"Majority is the only criteria, thus the sultan has no power to ask for more names when there is already a majority," he toldMalaysiakini today.

Aziz pointed out that under a parliamentary system, the government is owned and answers to the legislative house and not the palace.

And the palace’s only role, he added, is to appoint whoever that has majority support in the house.

Yesterday, the Selangor palace had issued astatement that the sultan has deferred Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim’s resignation until the latter’s replacement is appointed.

The ruler also asked PKR, DAP and PAS to each nominate two candidates as successors to the post.

"This is in tune with the convention that has been practised in all previous menteri besar appointments," said the sultan's press secretary Muhammad Munir Bani.

However, PKR and DAP both insisted on naming Wan Azizah while PAS has yet to decide.

Meanwhile, Aziz said the request for more names when there is a clear majority also deviated from the usual practice in Malaysia.

Normally, he added, the sultans, governors, and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong accepted any name submitted by the majority party.

"Note the smooth changes the Agong and sultans accepted and appointed incoming leaders without a fuss.

"Remember Tunku Abdul Rahman-Tun Abdul Razak in 1970? And then Hussein Onn-Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1981?

"Later Mahathir-Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2003 and Badawi-Najib Abdul Razak in 2009?" he said, referring to past transitions of power for the prime minister's post.
~ Malaysiakini

Bruno Manser honoured on his 60th birthday

11:34AM Aug 25, 2014By Dukau Papau
Bruno Manser, who was Sarawak’s most wanted man in the 1990s  and went missing in the tropical rainforests inhabited by the Penan community in the Upper Baram area has been a rare honour.

A team of Swiss scientists have named two recently discovered  animal species in the tropical rainforests of Borneo after Manser.

The Natural History Museum of Berne, Switzerland, made the announcement today, on the occasion of Manser’s 60th birthday.

The two new species are a spider of the goblin spider genus (right) Aposphragisma, named Aposphragisma brunomanseri, and the Murud black slender toad, Ansonia vidua.

Both species have been found in the rainforests of Sarawak.

Aposphragisma brunomanseri was collected by a Dutch-Swiss research expedition in western Sarawak in the 1990s and was highlighted at a recent international research effort by zoologist Marco Thoma from Berne’s Natural History Museum.

“The species epithet is dedicated to Bruno Manser, a Swiss environmental activist and ethnologist, most famous for his support of the nomadic Penan people against the destruction of the pristine rain forest in the Malaysian state of Sarawak,” the Natural History Museum of Berne said in a statement.

The Murud black slender toad, Ansonia vidua, was discovered in Sarawak’s Pulong Tau National Park during an international expedition headed by Dr Stefan Hertwig from the Natural History Museum of Berne and Berne University’s Institute for Ecology and Evolution.

The new species was discovered during a night excursion near a river, at an altitude of 2,150 metres on the Gunung Murud mountain, in the region where Manser went missing.

Friends believe Manser was murdered

Manser was born on Aug 25, 1954, in Basel, Switzerland. From 1984 to 1990, he lived in Sarawak with the Penan, Southeast Asia’s last nomadic hunter-gatherers.

After returning to Switzerland, he founded the Bruno Manser Fund, a human rights and environmental organisation that champions the rights of Sarawak’s indigenous peoples.

Manser has been missing since his last trip to Borneo in May 2000. His friends believe he was murdered.

The honouring of Manser is not only going to embarrass the Sarawak government, but will also further harden its hatred against Manser and the fund he established.
~ Malaysiakini

Adenan: We’re not happy with 5pct oil royalty

11:40AM Aug 27, 2014By Dukau Papau
Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem is not happy about the five percent royalty it has been receiving for the past 39 years for oil and gas tapped from that state.

"We are not satisfied with the five percent. We want a higher royalty in order to spur the state's development under the 12th Malaysia Plan," he told a Hari Raya gathering in Sebuyau yesterday.

Adenan added: "The state should participate aggressively in the oil and gas industry. We should not just stand and stare.

"The state government is still discussing with the federal government to increase the oil and gas royalty."

Despite much of the oil and gas coming from the shores of Sarawak, the state remains one of the poorest in the Federation of Malaysia, he said.

Its development in terms of infrastructure is 10 or even 20 years behind infrastructural development in West Malaysia.

“I want a bigger piece of the cake for Sarawak and we don’t want to be bystanders in the exploitation of our resources,” Adenan said.

His assertion comes in the wake of strong criticisms from Sarawak PKR and DAP leaders over the state's acceptance of a 10 percent equity offered by Petronas in the Malaysian Liquefied Natural Gas 4 (MLNG 4) deal.

CM draws flak

Adenan made the announcement of the equity participation last week, but did not state anything about the 20 percent royalty demand that the Sarawak Legislative Assembly had unanimously passed at its sitting in May.

His statement therefore drew flak from the opposition elected representatives who want the state to demand for an increase of the oil and gas royalty from the current five percent to 20 percent.

Sarawak PKR vice-chairperson See Chee How (left), who is Batu Lintang assemblyperson, said the state government should not be too happy to receive the 10 percent stake as it was entirely different from the 20 percent royalty increase that the state had been asking.

“The 10 percent is merely an investment, but is blown up to hoodwink the state government and Sarawakians into believing that Petronas is being generous,” See said.

“Surely the 10 percent stake in MLNG 4 will not be given free of charge, for we have in the past paid and invested RM30 million for the five percent equity in MLNG 1, RM40 million in 1992 for the 10 percent equity in MLNG 2 and RM40 million in 1995 for the 10 percent equity in MLNG 3,” See said.

Commenting on the same issue,  Sarawak DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen told the state government  not to be “penny wise and pound foolish” by being veered from the 20 percent oil and gas royalty demand.

“As the Opposition Leader in the Sarawak state assembly, I advise the BN government to hold firm to the unanimous decision of the Dewan Undangan Negeri in passing the resolution for the 20 percent oil and gas royalty for Sarawak,” said Chong, who is the Kota Sentosa assemblyperson.

“The Sarawak government should not be so contented about the 10 percent share in MLNG 4 and treat it as a substitute for our 20 percent oil and gas royalty demand. The offer is peanuts to what we have been rightfully demanding from Petronas,” he added.
~ Malaysiakini

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

“Disastrous Environmental And Socio-economic Consequences” – Evidence Mounts Against Mega-Dams

“Disastrous Environmental And Socio-economic Consequences” – Evidence Mounts Against Mega-Dams
Artist's impression of Taib's "brainchild" the planned Baram Dam.
Artist’s impression of Taib’s “brainchild” the planned Baram Dam.

As Adenan Satem ploughs on with Taib’s SCORE (Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy) programme for 15 more mega-dams in Sarawak, the evidence continues to mount that these structures are an outdated concept, which are being proved to do far more harm than good and to lose rather than gain money for the host countries concerned.

First there was the devastating Oxford University reportearlier this year, now the New York Times has documented the conversion of a former leading champion of dams for development into a committed opponent.

Professor Thayer Scudder, an American anthropologist, has studied the impact of dams over the past century, which he had originally hoped would help draw backward communities out of poverty.

The evidence he now concludes shows otherwise and he has changed his mind:
‘He has concluded that large dams not only aren’t worth their cost, but that many currently under construction “will have disastrous environmental and socio-economic consequences,” as he wrote in a recent email’ [New York Times 22/8/14]
With so much mounting concern and evidence against the wisdom of pouring billions into dams, for which there is no  immediate or conceivable need in Sarawak, it is starting to defy belief that Taib Mahmud and his foreign agent Torstein Dale Sjotveit continue to doggedly insist on the need to destroy Sarawak’s rivers and communities, without paying heed at all to the economic and social dangers.

The communities of the Baram River region are rising up to make the points reflected in Professor Scudder’s own analysis and yet Taib and his puppet chief minister Adenan are adamant they know better and that billions must be borrowed, in order to bring in Chinese companies to embark on a series of dams that no western company would be willing to touch for ethical reasons.

The people of Sarawak will have to pay for this wild gamble for development, but there is one person and one family that stands magnificently to gain.  They are the Taibs, whom the Governor has of course placed in pole position to win all the billion dollar contracts in this “development” spree.

Read what the New York Times has to say in this article by Jacques Leslie:
Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 15.15.23

THAYER SCUDDER, the world’s leading authority on the impact of dams on poor people, has changed his mind about dams.

A frequent consultant on large dam projects, Mr. Scudder held out hope through most of his 58-year career that the poverty relief delivered by a properly constructed and managed dam would outweigh the social and environmental damage it caused.

Now, at age 84, he has concluded that large dams not only aren’t worth their cost, but that many currently under construction “will have disastrous environmental and socio-economic consequences,” as he wrote in a recent email.

Mr. Scudder, an emeritus anthropology professor at the California Institute of Technology, describes his disillusionment with dams as gradual. He was a dam proponent when he began his first research project in 1956, documenting the impact of forced resettlement on 57,000 Tonga people in the Gwembe Valley of present-day Zambia and Zimbabwe. Construction of the Kariba Dam, which relied on what was then the largest loan in the World Bank’s history, required the Tonga to move from their ancestral homes along the Zambezi River to infertile land downstream. Mr. Scudder has been tracking their disintegration ever since.

Once cohesive and self-sufficient, the Tonga are troubled by intermittent hunger, rampant alcoholism and astronomical unemployment. Desperate for income, some have resorted to illegal drug cultivation and smuggling, elephant poaching, pimping and prostitution. Villagers still lack electricity.

Mr. Scudder’s most recent stint as a consultant, on the Nam Theun 2 Dam in Laos, delivered his final disappointment. He and two fellow advisers supported the project because it required the dam’s funders to carry out programs that would leave people displaced by the dam in better shape than before the project started. But the dam was finished in 2010, and the programs’ goals remain unmet. Meanwhile, the dam’s three owners are considering turning over all responsibilities to the Laotian government — “too soon,” Mr. Scudder said in an interview. “The government wants to build 60 dams over the next 20 or 30 years, and at the moment it doesn’t have the capacity to deal with environmental and social impacts for any single one of them.

He now thinks his most significant accomplishment was not improving a dam, but stopping one

“Nam Theun 2 confirmed my longstanding suspicion that the task of building a large dam is just too complex and too damaging to priceless natural resources,” he said. He now thinks his most significant accomplishment was not improving a dam, but stopping one: He led a 1992 study that helped prevent construction of a dam that would have harmed Botswana’s Okavango Delta, one of the world’s last great wetlands.

Part of what moved Mr. Scudder to go public with his revised assessment was the corroboration he found in astunning Oxford University study published in March in Energy Policy. The study, by Atif Ansar, Bent Flyvbjerg, Alexander Budzier and Daniel Lunn, draws upon cost statistics for 245 large dams built between 1934 and 2007. Without even taking into account social and environmental impacts, which are almost invariably negative and frequently vast, the study finds that “the actual construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return.”

“Planners are systematically biased toward excessive optimism” – time for Taib to tone down his promises?

The study’s authors — three management scholars and a statistician — say planners are systematically biased toward excessive optimism, which dam promoters exploit with deception or blatant corruption. The study finds that actual dam expenses on average were nearly double pre-building estimates, and several times greater than overruns of other kinds of infrastructure construction, including roads, railroads, bridges and tunnels. On average, dam construction took 8.6 years, 44 percent longer than predicted — so much time, the authors say, that large dams are “ineffective in resolving urgent energy crises.”

DAMS typically consume large chunks of developing countries’ financial resources, as dam planners underestimate the impact of inflation and currency depreciation. Many of the funds that support large dams arrive as loans to the host countries, and must eventually be paid off in hard currency. But most dam revenue comes from electricity sales in local currencies. When local currencies fall against the dollar, as often happens, the burden of those loans grows.

One reason this dynamic has been overlooked is that earlier studies evaluated dams’ economic performance by considering whether international lenders like the World Bank recovered their loans — and in most cases, they did. But the economic impact on host countries was often debilitating. Dam projects are so huge that beginning in the 1980s, dam overruns became major components of debt crises in Turkey, Brazil, Mexico and the former Yugoslavia. “For many countries, the national economy is so fragile that the debt from just one mega-dam can completely negatively affect the national economy,” Mr. Flyvbjerg, the study’s lead investigator, told me.

To underline its point, the study singles out the massive Diamer-Bhasha Dam, now under construction in Pakistan across the Indus River. It is projected to cost $12.7 billion (in 2008 dollars) and finish construction by 2021. But the study suggests that it won’t be completed until 2027, by which time it could cost $35 billion (again, in 2008 dollars) — a quarter of Pakistan’s gross domestic product that year.

Using the study’s criteria, most of the world’s planned mega-dams would be deemed cost-ineffective. That’s unquestionably true of the gargantuan Inga complex of eight dams intended to span the Congo River — its first two projects have produced huge cost overruns — and Brazil’s purported $14 billion Belo Monte Dam, which will replace a swath of Amazonian rain forest with the world’s third-largesthydroelectric dam.

Instead of building enormous, one-of-a-kind edifices like large dams, the study’s authors recommend “agile energy alternatives” like wind, solar and mini-hydropower facilities. 
“We’re stuck in a 1950s mode where everything was done in a very bespoke, manual way,” Mr. Ansar said over the phone. “We need things that are more easily standardized, things that fit inside a container and can be easily transported.”

All this runs directly contrary to the current international dam-building boom. Chinese, Brazilian and Indian construction companies are building hundreds of dams around the world, and the World Bank announced a year ago that it was reviving a moribund strategy to fund mega-dams. The biggest ones look so seductive, so dazzling, that it has taken us generations to notice: They’re brute-force, Industrial Age artifacts that rarely deliver what they promise.

~ Sarawak Report

9 new state seats possible

by Peter Sibon, Posted on August 26, 2014, Tuesday
Datu Takun Sunggah

EC to start delineation exercise in December, the last one in 2001 produced 9 additional seats
KUCHING: Around nine new state seats may be created when the Election Commission (EC) conducts its delineation exercise in December this year.

EC state director Datu Takun Sunggah said the last delineation exercise in 2001 yielded nine new state seats. Currently, Sarawak has 71 state seats and 31 parliamentary seats.

“This time around, there could be more than nine (seats), or it could be less. It all depends on EC,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday.

He said among the criteria to create new boundaries were the size and population of the seat to be delineated.

“Constituencies such as Belaga and Baram have fewer voters but have big areas. This needs to be looked into. In some urban areas, the number of voters is as high as 30,000, but the area is small. This needs to be looked into as well.”

He said the coming delineation exercise might not involve parliamentary seats.

“It all depends on EC whether there is such a need.”

On another matter, Takun said the allocation of seats was for the political parties to decide, not EC.

Meanwhile, state BN secretary-general Datuk Dr Stephen Rundi said the state BN had not decided on how the new seats would be allocated.

“But we are confident the chief minister, who is also the state BN chairman, will be wise enough on how these seats should be distributed among the four BN component parties.”

Currently, PBB is allocated 35 seats, SUPP 19, PRS nine and SPDP eight.

On whether the new seats would solve the problem of overlapping claims by the BN-friendly Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak (Teras) and United People’s Party (UPP), Dr Rundi said the state BN committee had not discussed this issue yet.

Teras has five seats and UPP four. Their elected representatives are formerly from SPDP and SUPP respectively.

“The issue of seat allocation has not been discussed yet. In addition, the state BN committee has not met yet,” said Dr Rundi.

Read more:

Putrajaya using Sedition Act to silence critics, says Bersih 2.0

Published: 26 August 2014

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) today expressed concern at the continued use of the Sedition Act 1948 "to silence dissenters and freedom of speech".
In a statement, Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah said Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad of PAS was the latest opposition lawmaker to be charged with sedition.
"Khalid had merely given his opinion about dissolving the executive powers of the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais)," Maria said.
"But he has now been charged under the Sedition Act 1948 for giving his opinion.”

Maria said Seri Delima state assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer was expected to be charged with sedition for uttering the remark “Umno celaka”.

Furthermore, Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli from PKR also has several cases against him pending under the Sedition Act.

"The list of opposition figures and activists who have been charged under the Sedition Act is not short either," Maria said.

On the list are Padang Serai MP N. Surendran (PKR), student activist Adam Adli, Batu MP Tian Chua (PKR) and Seputeh MP Teresa Kok (DAP).

Maria said Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia president Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman had also been charged with sedition.

"Considering the latest developments, it is clear that the Sedition Act will continue to be used as a weapon to silence dissenting voices.

"This is clear infringement of democratic spirit which always encourages different opinions and voices."

She said a government, which curtailed the freedom of speech, was also denying voters the rights of personal opinions which influenced their choice during the general election.

Bersih 2.0 called on Putrajaya to abolish the Sedition Act 1948.

"Putrajaya should be confident that the people can draw their own conclusions when confronted with alternative opinions or provocative speeches.

"Malaysians do not need such a draconian act to decide how to think," Maria said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had promised to abolish archaic and draconian acts when he took over the administration of the country in 2009.

Initially, Najib had succeeded in keeping his promise when he abolished the Internal Security Act 1960 and the Emergency Ordinance 1969.

Both laws had allowed for detention for trial, something which civil rights group had vociferously opposed.

However, Najib has yet to abolish the Sedition Act despite talks that he would replace it with a National Harmony Act. – August 26, 2014.

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